Vans - I just bought a boat and am in a similar position to you. I have sailing experience, but it is limited, especially compared to the other guys on this thread. I looked at all kinds of blue water boats, they make my mouth water! I love a well built boat that doesn't look like a floating condo. But, it would have been the wrong boat for me at this point. I didn't realize it at the time, but comfort is really important at this point in my sailing career. Pick a boat that you will be comfortable on and like to spend time on. I spend a lot of time on her just fixing little things and puttsing around, learning how things work, what is connected to what. I bought 34' and am glad I didn't go bigger, it would be too much for one. My girlfriend and I are a little cramped sometimes, but we compromised and gave up a little comfort for a better built boat. I would not be comfortable in her in the open ocean, although I think she would do alright, but I would feel absolutely safe up and down the west coast. And for now, thats all we plan to do. Look at it like going to a really good restaurant, your eyes will be bigger than your stomach. Cam and CD and lots of others here have given me lots of priceless info, and it is usually right on the mark.
Great men always have too much sail up. - Christopher Buckley
Vaya con Dios